So you don’t like “The Message” Bible? I hope it’s not because…

OK, so I’ll confess…I don’t blog much.  I tend to only jump on here if I’ve got something to say.  And I do today…

So our morning show does a daily morning feature called “Moment From The Message,” in which the hosts will read a few verses from The Message translation of the Bible (yes, it actually is a translation, albeit a different kind) and discuss how it impacts them or how a listener might apply this to  his or her life.


This is probably the segment of the day from which we get the most positive response from listeners.  It airs at 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. weekdays, so people are always telling us it helps them start their day with this “nugget” of devotion to God.  As with anything in media, we also get negative response.

A lot of people don’t like The Message.  Clearly.  And I get that.  There are a still a lot of “King James Only” type people out there, and if that’s you, cool.  Some people just prefer NIV, ESV, NASB, NLT, or any selection from a host of other translations.  And some question Eugene Peterson’s supposed soft translation technique on homosexuality.  Again, totally cool with that.

But here’s the one complaint we get very often that I just think is so tragic, because you can tell the spirit from which the complaint resonates.

“I don’t like the Message because I can’t even recognize what scripture you’re referring to when you read it.”  

I think this feedback is tragic because if we’re not careful, I fully believe that we can turn our knowledge about the Bible into our functioning God.  It’s possible to assume confidence not in God himself, but in what we can know about God.  And this is absolutely tragic.  So some listeners may complain about the version of the Bible we’re using, simply because they “don’t know it,” while totally ignoring the spirit of the passage, or heaven forbid, opening their ears to hear the Word of the Lord in a slightly different way.  Today, that spirit was Jesus inviting the people into his rest, gentleness, and humility in Matthew 11, which ironically, sparked at least one complaint.

If you don’t like The Message, again… I’m totally cool with that.  I don’t like it all the time.  Even Eugene Peterson has said, “When I’m in a congregation where somebody uses [The Message] in the Scripture reading, it makes me a little uneasy. I would never recommend it be used as saying, “Hear the Word of God from The Message.” But it surprises me how many do.”

Friends, let’s try to live this verse.  (And I’ll even give it to you in NIV)..

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” – Colossians 3:12



16 responses to “So you don’t like “The Message” Bible? I hope it’s not because…

  1. Some call it a translation, others a paraphrase. Some like it, others don’t. But you’re right — it’s one way to hear the word of God in a fresh way and that could (or should?) point a person back to the translation that s/he “likes” for more reflection, meditation, study….. Thanks for the post.

  2. Johnathon,
    Very true. I use to always preach out of the NLT just because I thought it’s a fresh approach but very similar to NIV. I’ve enjoyed The Message, but much like the quote you noted from Eugene, I feel uneasy with using a paraphrase translation during my sermon. I would do it occasionally to mix things up or get a different angle on things that NIV really doesn’t relay.
    -producer matt

  3. On of my professors in college too time prior to us doing a paper to go through the different types of translations/paraphrases and was very careful to point out the message is a paraphrase and therefore should not be the soul translation someone uses but it is very good to get another look and perspective on a passage. I have used to while teaching a lesson to the youth group I work with but also pull in other translations as well.

    Given the short amount of time you have it would be impossible to do a huge list of translations and hopefully it will get people thinking and they will check it out in their favorite translation as well.

  4. “I think this feedback is tragic because if we’re not careful, I fully believe that we can turn our knowledge about the Bible into our functioning God. ”
    I have to say that I agree with your statement, but not in this context. We can get caught up in our knowledge – I agree. However, I don’t think this is the case here with the objection that’s being talked about. When the objection is that we can’t even recognize what scripture that’s being referred to when it’s being read – it means that the meaning behind that verse is no longer recognizable. Look at the Lord’s prayer in Matthew. The Message has completely taken away the great theological as well as practical meaning of what Jesus said there (and I’m not a KJV only nut…). The meaning of what Jesus said has been CHANGED by The Message. The sad thing is – this happens all throughout the translation.

  5. The Message is a paraphrase and Eugene Peterson’s thoughtful perspective on how the Scripture is speaking to him in this culture. The Message should not be used in place of a true translation such as NIV, ESV, KJV, NLT, etc., but rather as a supplement to a sermon or study. I was with Eugene Peterson at a retreat (he was the speaker) and he is one of the most humble and Christ-like intellectuals I have ever met. I do not always agree with his perspective on a passage either, but I have folks in my church who don’t always agree with how I interpret Scripture from my ESV or NIV Bible. Disagreement goes with the territory of actually being vunerable with how God is speaking to someone through His Word.

  6. Friends, I understand that most people throw around the words that “The Message is a paraphrase” because that’s we’re comfortable with calling it, but in reality The Message is technically an “idiomatic translation.” This means that Peterson follows the conventions or rules of the language into which it is being translated (English), but actually did translate from the original languages.

    Great discussion here. Thanks so much for your great comments!

  7. Paraphrase or translation…it seems to be just about semantics but in reality it is much more. Perhaps Eugene translated some parts and paraphrased other parts. Whatever his intentions were, the finished product IS FAR from God’s word.

    If you are even going to begin a discussion of The Message you CANNOT ignore his use of both new age and occult terminology otherwise your discussion is not a matter of getting to any real truth but rather another opportunity to show how “wise” you are…i.e. “the message is technically an ‘idiomatic translation.’

  8. johnnymornings

    Hey Julie…occult terminology? Aren’t we going a little bit far there?

  9. I found you. When you left JoyFM, I missed you. I wondered where you got off to. I was in your group for Basket of Hope Last Year, Glad to find you again. Oh, by the way, I love the Message Bible, and I love the Navigator Organization. This was written so people would have a better understanding of ther Word of God. Rock on Jonny Morning

  10. I do not like The Message, and I am not an advocate of the King James Version, for the same reason. I want a translation that is as close to the original language as possible, using easily comprehensible modern language and idiom, and I am always on the lookout for a more accurate translation. My reason is that I want to know what God Himself thinks and intends. What The Message does is take a scripture and then, just out of the head of Peterson, changes it into something often very far from what the original Greek or Hebrew said, but very close to Petersen’s own thinking, I am sure. I humbly question Peterson’s authority to do this. I think, even though it is well meaning, it is dangerous. I certainly do not judge Peterson’s motives, but in answer to the quote from Peterson about using it as The Word of God, I have to ask, “Well what in the world did you expect would happen?”

  11. Robert Fruehling

    The Message does not refer to Jesus even one time as Lord. Interesting when you consider that Eugene Peterson, who wrote the Message, is a prof. of Greek and Hebrew. Big red flag.

  12. I feel that if people read the Message and it turned their hearts to Christ, then why bash it? I am thankful for the different translations, because they reach such a wide diversity of people. And the bottom line is people turning to Christ.

  13. people are so stupid in reality our English bibles are all paraphrase in my opinion. I learned Hebrew two years ago and it’s a very poetic language and it’s an eastern language, I find people from that culture don’t understand what all our fuss is about translation… how about everyone just learn to speak Greek or hebrew… exactly.. room gets quiet.. stop with all this foolishness and be led of the Spirit of the love the Message Bible.. its beautiful to me and I love different languages. I also know Hebrew.. Greek not so much. it’s the western mindset that’s the problem.. we Believe one way is right.. that is a dangerous mindset and Paul warns us to be renewed in our minds to cast off worldly thinking. I believe all translations are fine. If you look up strongs dictionary or learn ancient Hebrew you will find it takes several of our English words to define one Hebrew word… that said even the King James sucks! it takes the Holy Spirit to expose the heart of God to understand his words… if you don’t know the author…. you can read the Bible in every translation and even in several languages and you will be a lost fool. so many Christians live busted lives who pray, read the Bible, and fast and yet they are horrible and obnoxious.. its a Spirit thing not a translation thing.

  14. @Christina: Matthew 5:22–be careful anytime you call someone a “fool,” even generically, for what you perceive as foolishness.
    1 Corinthians 1:19–“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise.”
    Ecclesiastes 5:8–don’t be surprised by injustice.

    For more, read my blog at:

  15. @Christina: While you were likely referring to more than just me, I would bet that you would include me in the groups of “lost fool” and “horrible and obnoxious.” Yet, I still vividly remember when you thought I was “awesome.” Funny how you would rather harden your heart in negative things rather than soften your heart in positive things–largely because of your own pride in trying to figure out how to disregard all the good I was doing at Coastlands. If you had truly known me, you would know that I don’t act in pride–I act in humility but I get annoyed because of false worldliness that refuses to recognize the struggles and humanity of a straight white male because I’m viewed as the dominant identity in American society and inherently oppressive, when nothing could be further from the truth. And FYI, your screed about “stupid” people is like the pot calling the kettle black–your post is littered with errors of spelling and grammar but that doesn’t seem to concern you.

  16. @Christina: I wanted to add this–it was your pride that continued to cause distress to you. Christ died in order for you to have inner peace, not distress. There is no such thing as distress for the sake of Christ–that’s just a vain way of taking the LORD’s name in vain. You assume that because you would get a lot of attention from guys–that you know what is on their heart. Only God can truly judge the heart. Yet, getting mentally weak men to “listen” to you proves nothing. It was simply your attempt to figure out what other guys would not do around women–when all foolishness is subjective and based on human understanding. Lean not on your own understanding. The reality is … there is no such thing as “social skills” that are intrinsic to people. Some people will struggle to learn some “social skills” because of issues in the health of their brain, that are more correctable than society realizes (largely because, there’s too much greed in creating treatments that don’t do anything or make things worse). “Social skills” come from an identity. When you are a child, you have the identity of childhood–which is why adults are not likely to judge or convict you for doing something as a child, because it is assumed that a child doesn’t know any better. As you grow, your identity changes–once a child is now a teenager. That’s when a person is likely to feel robbed of innocence. Yet, teenagers again, have an identity to use in order to explain anti-social or indulgent behavior but only for so long. The truth about Christianity is that it is an identity from which we derive true social skills through gifts of the Holy Spirit. That is why I do not identity as “gifted”–I identify with gifts that I can give after I have received that gift from the Holy Spirit. This message should be interpreted as a gift of prophecy that was needed to convict you of pride when you pridefully used fear, gossip, mockery, lies, false humility, and flattery to embolden your false narratives and fake issues rather than offer up your distress as a sacrifice to Christ.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s